ELVERSON, Pa., -- In a classic duel between East and West, Arnold Cutrell of Greensburg, Pa., near Pittsburgh, defeated Glennn Smeraglio, of Newtown, Pa., in suburban Philadelphia, on the 19th hole to win the Pennsylvania Golf Association’s second R. Jay Sigel Pennsylvania Amateur Match Play Championship at Stonewall (par 70, 6,652 yards).
It was a dramatic finish for a back-and-forth match that featured only six halved holes and clutch, match-saving putts by Cutrell on holes No. 17 and 18, the latter after his 167-yard, down hill, down wind 8 iron hit four feet up on the flagstick at the back of the green and clanged to a stop 12 feet away.
One-down at the time, he drained the difficult, slick 12-footer to send the match into extra holes.
Then on the playoff par 5, 511-yard No. 1 -- after he extricated his drive from under the lip of a fairway bunker, pitched to 15 feet and missed a birdie by inches, he watched as Smeraglio’s three-foot par putt dipped into the hole and then out, three quarters of the way around the cup.
"The golf gods," he said, "were with me today."
Cutrell, 40, is a former professional who played briefly as a Monday qualifier on the Nationwide Tour, and in several satellite tours in the 1980s before regaining his amateur status in 1994.
He plays to a plus three handicap out of Totteridge GC, a course founded and designed by golf architect Rees Jones.
He was 3-up after eight holes on a gray, cool, windless day, after Smeraglio found a greenside bunker on No. 1, scraped up a double bogey on the short, 370-yard No. 4, losing to a bogey, and missed an eight-foot par putt on No 8.
"I thought I was in good shape then," Cutrell said. "I felt I just had to play steady golf from there on to win. But Glennn played excellently from nine on in."
Smeraglio, 44, got one back on No. 9, a tough, 219-yard par 3 over a large expanse of water, when he hit a 4-iron to 25 feet after Cutrell pulled his 4-iron left into the drink, just short of the green.
He the picked up another hole on the 395-yard, par 4 No 10, where he hit a wedge from 138 yards to 10 feet and sunk the putt for a bird to cut the deficit to 1-down, only to go 2-down again on the par 5, 585-yard No. 11, where he left a fat wedge well short of the green and missed from 12 feet for a bogie 6.
But he cut the margin to one again on the next hole, a 346-yard par 4, with a bird from six feet, and evened the match on the 187-yard, par 3 15th, when Cutrell three-putted from 60 feet.
With the momentum on his side, Smeraglio took the lead on the brutal, 463-yard, par four 16th, where he hit his shot of the day, a 140-foot, lob wedge chip from deep rough short of the green to five feet for a par. Cutrell missed from 35 feet for a bogey.
On No. 17, a short, 142-yard par 3, it looked like it was all over for Cutrell. He missed his tee shot badly, leaving it 25 feet short of the green on the edge of a bunker, while Smeraglio had a 20-footer for the match. Cutrell chipped to five feet, Smeraglio missed by inches, and Cutrell sank the five-footer to extend the match.
On 18, Cutrell, the long-hitting Cutrell, who had outdriven Smeraglio by 30 yards, as he had most of the day, said, "When I say Glennn on the green, I knew I needed a bird to win. I was pumped up. I hit the eight high and hard. If it hadn’t hit the flagstick it would have been over the green. The golf gods were with me today."
He said this, his first Pennsylvania state title, even after qualifying once for the USGA Amateur, and making match play in the last three USGA Middle-Amateurs, was very special.
"When I was growing up, Jay Sigel was Mr. Amateur Golf," he said. "He was a great player and a great person. I’m honored to win this tournament in his name."
Cutrell graduated from Wake Forest University, as did Sigel, but he didn’t play on the golf team, which won the NCAA Championship while he was there in 1986, with such future pros as Len Mattiace and Billy Andrade.
Smeraglio, after he lipped out the three-footer on 19 to end the match, was visibly disappointed on the course. But he took the loss stoically, and with class, back in the clubhouse.
"I’m an emotional guy," he said. "It was a tough, three days. When you’re 1-up and you par 18, especially with the flagstick back, your going to win 99 percent of the time.
"But he hit great shots at great times, and that’s how you win golf tournaments. It was a strong field with good players and I’m proud to get as far as I got."